Film Review – The Conjuring 2 (2016)

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Endearing paranormal ass kickers the Warrens become engulfed in the harrowing events unfolding at a pebble-dashed council house in North London. Fighting destiny is never easy, but simultaneously protecting a bedeviled family from the dauntingly pugnacious spirit of Bill Wilkins tests the couple’s perception of evil to breaking point and beyond. This is……. Enfield.

Beginning with a brief but bonkers tour of duty through the classic horror territory of Amityville, the movie suddenly body swerves into Blighty and the “based on a true story” madness of the Enfield haunting. Before long The Crooked Man and a colon emptying demon nun board this bullet train of terror as The Conjuring 2 careers, just about clinging to the rails, headlong into epicness.

2 hours 13 minutes is a lifetime in the world of multiplex horror movies but this ambitious runtime is purely a by-product of the film’s scope and ambition. You will not encounter a better value trip to the cinema this year as Wan crams in set-piece after brutal set-piece ramping up toward the breathless carnival ride of a climax.

There is a fairly sizeable chunk of cheese to swallow, some of the CGI is digging its nails in on the precipice of realism and there’s a hive full of musical stings to wrestle with, but none of this so much as grazes the movie. The schmaltz morphs into romance and generates heart, the computer effects lend a surreal air to the climate and many of the telegraphed jump scares are genuinely underwear befouling.

The sheer audacity of the camera work from Forrest Gump lensman Don Burgess is highly engrossing in its own right. Deploying dancing swoops and daring pans as the camera aspires to keep pace with the demented action.

Performances are well nuanced with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga bringing both charm and energy to the main roles promoting tangible levels of character investment and empathy. Madison Wolfe is exceptional as the possessed Janet. She is the focal point of the narrative and fosters the authenticism required for the audience to believe in this desperate family from rain-lashed Brimsdown.

Unsurprisingly horror geeks will have a field day spotting the various genre tropes and keeping their eyes peeled for the now obligatory Annabelle cameo.

What is surprising, however, is the level of deft judgement inherent in the script. Frequent air-pockets of humour, that allow the audience a rare chance to draw breath, blend seamlessly with palpable notes of raw fear lurking beneath the dialogue of the frustrated victims.

Don’t be put off if you watched the excellent Sky drama The Enfield Haunting recently as The Conjuring 2 is an entirely  transcendental kettle of fiendish fish. If anything it will enhance your enjoyment in terms of backstory.

2016 has seen oceans of internet ink spilled over The VVitch and its horror credentials, resulting in more below the line comment carnage than any other genre concern. Now James Wan’s behemoth of a fright flick provides the perfect counterpoint to sharpen perspectives.

The anthesis of slow burn arthouse horror Wan’s film showcases how to mainline exactly the product horror junkies crave and still create beautifully kinetic and lovingly nurtured cinema.

This is not painting by numbers filmmaking by any stretch. They even had the house they were filming in blessed by a real priest.

James Wan directed this film himself to protect the “Conjuring” universe and has delivered nothing less than a relentlessly entertaining and resolutely classy horror triumph in the process.

★★★★1/2 |Bradley Hadcroft

Supernatural, Horror | USA, 2015 |15 | Warner Bros | 13th June 2016 (UK) | Dir. James Wan | Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe, Frances O’Connor, Simon McBurney,Franka Potente